Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

It is a dark time for the Rebellion. Although the Death Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have driven the Rebel forces from their hidden base and pursued them across the galaxy.

Evading the dreaded Imperial Starfleet, a group of freedom fighters led by Luke Skywalker have established a new secret base on the remote ice world of Hoth.

The evil lord Darth Vader,obsessed with finding young Skywalker, has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of space…

Here we are again, space travelers, for the fifth installment of a seven part series commemorating the 30th anniversary of the STAR WARS saga by me, author Alan Trehern.

Readers, you are in for a real treat tonight because on the page is one of the greatest movies to date, and the best movie in the entire STAR WARS saga:
My fellow blogger, Ben Pearson, can atone to the following statement: “TESB is the best acted, best edited, best story and best special effects of any of the Star Wars movies.” I stand by that statement and would take a bullet in the thigh to defend it. Directed by Irvin Kershner, this 1980 sci-fi epic continues the tale started in A New Hope, following Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Leia Organa and their battle to stop the Galactic Empire.

We find our heroes stationed on the remote planet of Hoth. Luke gets lost within a frigid snow storm, where he meets the ghost of the late Obi-Wan Kenobi. Obi-Wan tells him to travel to the Dagobah system, where Yoda can train him in the ways of the Force. The Empire soon finds them, and Darth Vader, “obsessed with finding young Skywalker”, makes the trip personally.

Our heroes escape. Luke and Artoo travel to Dagobah and find Yoda,
the great Jedi master and one of the most innovative characters at the time. I have delved slightly into the legend of Yoda in previous posts, so now I will discuss the actual development. Yoda is a Muppet, basically, voiced and maneuvered by Frank Oz and his mannerisms are so life like and his facial contortions so real, that his puppet heritage is lost, and you really see this strange creature from another planet. I don’t know if it’s because of Oz or the direction of Kershner, but this aspect of the movie is clearly one of its strong suits.

Further, the acting is phenomenally better than its predecessor, without all the awkward pauses or crappy one-liners. (Alright, there’s a couple one-liners.) It really feels that the actors (Hamill, Ford and surprisingly Fischer) took their roles seriously and actually jumped into character for once. TESB still has that spirit or adventure, science fiction and drama all wrapped up, which it unfortunately loses in Return of the Jedi. Hamill provides the gut wrenching scene when he finds out the man he hates most is indeed his father, yelling in the wind tunnels of Cloud City. Ford composes his role dashingly, giving the “ole’
Errol Flynn, debonair Solo pirate” effect he always manages to do. Even Fischer (Princess Leia) gives her best performance (and I must say doesn’t look half bad) as her character grows closer and closer (involuntarily, of course, because she was forced to travel in the Falcon because the snow pile blocked off her Rebel cruiser. Then they’re attacked by Imperial Star Destroyers and forced to base on the planet Bespin, where the Empire catches them anyway. ) to Han Solo.

Now that I mention Bespin and Cloud City, let’s consider the great new additions to the Star Wars universe. First, probably the blackest character in the Star Wars movies, Billy Dee Williams takes the role of Lando Calrissian, a Solo-esque archetype that had previously owned the Millennium Falcon, but had lost it to Solo in a game of Sabacc. His potential is fully realized in ROTJ, but in this installment, he is the leading cause of Solo’s capture and Skywalker’s defeat at the hands of Darth Vader. Only thinking to protect his colony, Lando faced the decision of betraying his friend or being killed by Vader, along with thousands of other people. I don’t envy you for a second, Lando.

Another great addition is Boba Fett (first
appearing in the Star Wars Christmas Special [1978]), who captures Solo, freezing him in solid carbonite for secure transfer to Jabba the Hutt (the crime lord Solo had smuggled goods for). Silent but deadly, Boba Fett and a group of bounty hunters (including Bossk, IG-88 and Dengar) are employed by the Empire to hunt down the Rebels. Fett succeeds. (To see further adventures of Boba Fett and his ultimate spanking of other bounty hunters, check out The Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy. I’m currently reading Book I, and it is tasty.)

These events (Solo’s capture, Skywalker’s defeat, the Rebels’ loss on Hoth and the revealing of Vader’s identity) all set the stage for the penultimate conclusion to the greatest trilogy of all time. Good direction, special effects, editing and acting all add to the enjoyment of this movie, and I really regret Kershner not having his hand in the Star Wars pot more often. But what happens between TESB and ROTJ? How does Luke and Leia track down Boba Fett? How does Vader’s hunt for his son further torment him? And who the hell is Dash Rengar? Find out in the sixth installment of Ben’s Movie Reviews: The Star Wars Saga: Shadows of the Empire…coming soon.

Until then, watch these movie before the year is up. You’ll feel better that you did.

Safe journeys, space fans, wherever you are…
WARNING: Watching the Star Wars movies may cause increased feelings of patriotism, sexiness and all around coolness. Please consume carefully.


Ben Pearson said...

I love the concept of you taking a bullet in the thigh for this film. I'm not even a big Star Wars fan, but I'd probably take a bullet graze on the left shoulder to defend this one. Nice work. You should be thinking about what series you want to take on next after your Return of the Jedi review is done - I like the concept of you being a series reviewer mixed in with random other reviews. (Perhaps the Indiana Jones series, thanks to the new film coming out in May?)

tee breezy said...

maybe all 21 Bond films?